Home » Eat. Drink. Love: A Culinary Tour of Virginia

Eat. Drink. Love: A Culinary Tour of Virginia

by Jeff Heilman
Virginia Culinary Tour

Adapting its globally recognized “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign from 1969, the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s marketing slogan “Eat. Drink. Love.” invites visitors to explore and embrace the Commonwealth’s acclaimed, adventurous food and beverage offerings. Make your RSVP for wideranging epicurean excursions that are rooted in Old Dominion’s historic ties to the bounty of the land and the sea.

Agriculture is Virginia’s dominant private industry. The Commonwealth is home to more than 43,000 farms (36 percent of which are primarily operated by women) averaging 181 acres in size.

Carried by the mighty James River, sedimentary deposits of fertile Pamunkey (after the Native American tribe) soil make Virginia a highyield leader. All ranked in the top ten nationally, diverse products and commodities include leaf tobacco, apples, grapes, peanuts, tomatoes, broilers, and turkeys. Produced at some 565 dairy farms, milk is Virginia’s official beverage.

With prime fishing and aquacultural areas including Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic seaboard and numerous tributaries and rivers, Virginia is a top five U.S. seafood producer and quite the catch for blue and red crab, bass, bluefish and more. The Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is Virginia’s official First Food.

Liquid assets include powerhouse wine, craft brewing, and distillery industries, with George Washington’s rye whiskey notably designated as Virginia’s official spirit.

In the hands of innovative chefs, bakers, vintners, brewers and distillers, Virginia’s year-round harvest inspires creative, often daring bites and beverages that attract national and global acclaim.

Virginia’s capital is also its headquarters for culinary invention and old-school classics. In the fickle world of restaurants, starting a revolution is one thing, but keeping it alive and kicking is another animal entirely. Just don’t tell that to Richmond’s chefs, who ignited a culinary renaissance a decade ago that remains hotter than ever.

Alefwife Whole Roasted Red Snapper in Richmond, Virginia

Alefwife Whole Roasted Red Snapper
Photo: Courtesy of Alefwife

National recognition started in 2010, when Dale Reitzer earned the first of three consecutive James Beard Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic semifinalist nods for his just-closed New American hotspot Acacia Mid-Town.

Lee Gregory, who worked with Reitzer at Acacia, is another leader of Richmond’s remarkable run. In 2011, he and partner Kendra Feather opened The Roosevelt, (623 North 25th Street. Tel: 804-658-1935. rooseveltrva.com). Matching the intrepid location in then-troubled Church Hill, Richmond’s historic first neighborhood, their elevated “Southern pub fare” earned Gregory three consecutive (2013-2015) Beard nominations for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.

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